By Ms. Manisha Joshi

Early morning walking down the neighbourhood streets, I saw a corpse of a tiny infant lying in the dustbin. This sight made my heart ache filled with not only grief but also anger against the society. That appalling glimpse of the scene pointed towards a horrible practice still being in practice over many parts of our country. This practice of killing a female child-much before her birth, also known as female foeticide, which was evident through the dead body of the unborn child, sent chills down my spine. For many days I was in a state of shock, of how can someone commit this atrocious act.

As a matter of fact, in many parts of the nation, birth of a son brings with itself a lot of joy and happiness. The entire family is not only congratulated for having their heir, but the woman who has delivered that child is also celebrated for having given a ‘boy’ to continue the family’s lineage. On the contrary, birth of a girl child, in many households is not celebrated with the same intensity of happiness. Earlier many pre-birth gender detection practices were carried out by people just to know what is the gender of the unborn child, so that a decision can be taken whether to go forward with it or to medically terminate the pregnancy. This was done covertly for many years and many women unwillingly had to undergo the grind of the process. It was only until 20-25 years back that sex-determination practices were put to a stop, so as to dis-incentivize people from female foeticide and hence skewing the sex-ratio.

Even today, there is a fetish among the society for a male-child. It’s because of a plain age-old maxim that male child is indispensable to run a family’s pedigree. Practices such as sex-determination by quacks still continue secretly. And many households still bound in the conservative practices go to these quacks. Of late there were many news reports on how female foetuses lay abandoned in a city lake at some place. Such articles point towards the ignorance of the society; how even more than seven decades of independence mind-set of some people is still confined in the archaic practices that oppress women and thrive on their suppression! Though various steps have been taken by the Government to promote gender equality and parity, it lies on people at large who constitute the Society. Substantial results towards transformation cannot be achieved unless people change their mind-sets and start accepting that women too carry equal rights as men do. That, a daughter is no more a liability who has to be wedded off and settled by giving a huge dowry; in fact a daughter is an asset who makes an entire family progressive. Unless people come together and join hands against the grotesque practices towards female oppression, impact towards development will remain a distant dream.

The need of hour is incentivizing girl child education so that households get a fillip to educate their girls and not ask them to stay back at homes to assist in daily household chores. The need of hour is to promote households towards single girl child; so that if the first born in any household is a girl then the family does not go on producing more children until they finally get a male child. The need of hour is to have more schemes from the state and central governments towards achieving gender parity- so that a level playing field is set for all; and families do not have to pursue with practices such as female foeticide just being driven by a thought that girl child is a liability!

The author is a student of masters in psychology from Kumaon University

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